Patrick Clarke (42), a former Councillor and a law graduate from Castlewellan, officially handed in his nomination papers on Tuesday 7 February to the Banbridge Electoral offices. He is running as an Independent assembly candidate in the upcoming election in South Down.
He outlined that there now needs to be an Independent voice for the most vulnerable people within South Down particularly those most badly affected following recent welfare reform changes within the social security benefits system. He has also vowed if elected as an MLA to Stormont to be an effective legislator.
Speaking to Down news, he said despite having been struck down as a councillor by the NI Local Government Ombudsman on matters relating to his conduct as a councillor in 2016, he explained that he deeply regrets the hurt and upset he may have caused to people whilst he was suffering from a mental health problem which he indicates has now been attended to at a medical level.
PERSONAL REASONS FOR STANDING
Patrick Clarke said: “I more than anyone know at first hand from my own very unfortunate personal experience and previous judgements of error that no-one can go back in time or turn the clock back to change or indeed rewrite the wrongs of the past.
“But what I can do is to accept the things I cannot change, have the courage to change the things I can by learning from previous mistakes whilst having the compassion, grace, humility and sincerity to seek peoples forgiveness by doing the community some public service.
“I wish to move forward in helping to make a positive change by shaping and building a better and bright future for my fellow man and woman. After very much deep personal thought and reflection and as an act of contrition I trust I can now be afforded a second chance in order for people to consider voting for me as an Independent candidate. I feel 100% compared to where I was when I was ill.
“People know me as an extremely committed person and capable politician who will be totally committed and dedicated to helping the most vulnerable in our society to ensure that I can actually make a tangible contribution in people’s daily and personal lives on the real local and regional issues that actually matter to voters.
“By being an Independent candidate at the Assembly election I want to represent those who have no Independent voice as there are many people of all ages and backgrounds living right across South Down who wish politics to change.”
DOWNE AND DAISY HILL HOSPITALS
Patrick Clarke said: “Protecting both the Downe Hospital in Downpatrick and Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry will be among my top priorities at Stormont. I will be campaigning for both better mental health and front line health care services also at the Downe Hospital and Daisy Hill Hospital and will be lobbying for more resources and funding to address alcohol and drug addictions, mental health and wellbeing as part of part of his key health priorities.
“I am also concerned about the impact Brexit will have due to uncertainty as well as cross-border trade and the possibility of land borders between Newry and Dundalk near the constituency of South Down. There are serious implications with the free movement of goods, services and people currently enjoyed being in the EU following the UK leaving the EU and that more certainty, comfort and security is essential for the rural farming and agriculture industry.”
Speaking after handing in his assembly nomination papers outside the Electoral Offices at Banbridge Patrick Clarke said: “In recent weeks and months I have been very humbled and gratified by the spirit and Christian generosity of those people who have contacted and visited me recently.
I have witnessed their very kind personal gestures of moral support and many sent their best wishes, cards and prayers encouraging me to get well and also make a return to politics at some stage despite my own very personal difficulties and poor ill health last year.
“As a former Newry Mourne and Down District Councillor, I had been a tireless worker often dedicating very long hours virtually seven days a week for over five years representing many people on a very wide range of both Council and other constituency matters outside the remit of the powers of Council.
“Irrespective of the gravity of any of the constituent problems which I was contacted about, I always tried to the very best of my personal ability to ensure I could do whatever was humanly possible within my political power to effectively and diligently represent all those people who really needed my help.
“Coming from a rural working class background I have always only been interested in the personal welfare of helping those other people less well off than me and do not subscribe to any of the other political party football politics continually biting lumps out of each other.”
ISSUES AFFECTING SOUTH DOWN
“There are a multitude of major issues in South Down that really need a very strong, articulate and determined Independent voice speaking at Stormont. I want to be that strong voice as I firmly believe I can help make a real and positive lasting difference to improving the wellbeing and lives of many individual people living in South Down.
“Therefore as an act of atonement I would like to be afforded the opportunity in representing all of the people, working and delivering for all of the people irrespective of creed, race, political or religious backgrounds.”
BETTER INFRASTRUCUTRE AND INVESTMENT NEEDED
Patrick Clarke added: “There needs to be more inward investment in the infrastructure of South Down particularly within areas such as the manufacturing industry which has one of the lowest percentage rates of foreign and direct inward investment partly due to the current lack of proper road infrastructure and largely because INVEST NI do not see South Down as a key strategic investment area.
“We already have one of the busiest ports in Ireland at Warrenpoint harbour which has already witnessed record volumes of trade increasing at the growing Warrenpoint Port. With the much anticipated hope of Narrow Water Bridge being constructed between County Down and County Lough would certainly also help attract further financial inward investment as well as other economic benefits to promote our growing tourism sector in South Down.”
A Short Bio On Patrick Clarke
Patrick Clarke has previously contested two local Council government elections winning a seat each time.
In May 2011 Patrick Clarke ran as a candidate in the local government election and secured a Council seat on the former Down District Council representing the Newcastle district electoral area polling 565 first preference votes.
In May 2014 Patrick Clarke secured a Council seat in the local government election for the newly formed Newry Mourne and Down District Council representing the new Slieve Croob district electoral area polling 690 first preference votes.
Patrick Clarke is a former pupil of Drumaroad Primary School, St. Colman’s High School, Ballynahinch and was admitted to the Degree of Bachelors of Law with Honours from Queen’s University, Belfast and will also be commencing an MA reading Irish History at Maynooth University, Kildare, in September 2017.
He also enjoys researching landed estates, historic houses, parishes, churches, schools, family ancestry, graveyards and headstones, etc. In recent years he has been researching Irish Parliamentary MP’s from County Down who served in both the Irish Parliament 1692 – 1800 and also in the British Westminster Houses of Parliament during the 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Patrick Clarke is also the author of ‘History of a County Down Townland – Drumaroad’ which was first published back in 2004 by Shanway Press, Belfast. In 2008 Patrick Clarke wrote a historical family ancestry titled the ‘Fordes of Seaforde’ which was published in the Lecale Review, a journal of County Down history.